“Maybe I’ll see the shine of you bringing me home again. That’s the maybe.” One line which could maybe sum up the experience laid out in Gruesome Playground Injuries, brought to us from the United States by Phantom Owl Productions.
Written by Rajiv Joseph, who was a finalist for the 2010 Pulitzer Prize for Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo, Gruesome Playground Injuries follows the interlocking love and loss of the two lead characters, Doug and Kayleen, spanning over thirty years.
The play unfolds through significant meetings between the two characters over thirty years, played with nuanced and expert ease by Brad Fleischer and Jules Willcox. However, as with any play involving non-linear structure, some moments are lost in the interim periods we don’t witness.
Fleischer’s Doug is a cannonball of an electric charge. His stage presence is a joy to experience, especially in the younger years, and his versatility holds strong throughout.
Willcox has the harder job. The character of Kayleen is predominantly internal in terms of her wounds and the character is so much more complex than Doug. However, it is in the silences and stolen looks that Willcox shines light into the darkness. The layers of warmth and silent longing she adds in Kayleen with every scene are of great contrast to Doug and the blistering final scene will have you reaching for a tissue or two.
The play was directed by Larissa Kokernot, who has used the Basic Mountain space to its full capacity – the sterile white is reminiscent of a doctor's surgery and the lighting choices add intensity but also sadness in correlation with the themes.
The costume changes all take place on stage for the audience to witness, and they sometimes felt a little too long and disrupted the pacing of the piece.
Some would argue that this play is not a love story – I would go the opposite way. It is very much a love story of the time we live in and is expertly brought to life by the two leads who clearly have nothing but trust in and admiration for their material.
This is an incredibly powerful piece of theatre, which demands to be seen. The cast lifts the words into dizzyingly emotional highs and matching lows and the direction was overall a joy.
August 16th - 31st (not 17th-18th and 24th-25th) Venue: Basic Mountain on Hill Street. Check website for showtimes and ticket prices. Guideline 16+